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England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions >> X Council v B & Ors  EWHC 270 (Fam) (18 February 2008)
Cite as:  EWHC 270 (Fam),  1 FLR 1460
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LIVERPOOL DISTRICT REGISTRY
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| In the Matter of the B children X COUNCIL
|- and -
|B and others
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Munby :
"This judgment was handed down in private but the judge hereby gives leave for it to be reported in the form in which it here appears.
The judgment is being distributed on the strict understanding that in any report no person other than the advocates (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name or location and that in particular the anonymity of the children and the adult members of their family must be strictly preserved."
The judgment was subsequently reported as X Council v B (Emergency Protection Orders)  EWHC 2015 (Fam),  1 FLR 341. At that stage neither the family nor the local authority had been publicly identified.
"Upon reading the judgment handed down on 16 August 2004
And upon reading letters from the mother dated 6 March 2007 and from the local authority dated 9 May 2007
And the judge treating the letter from the mother dated 6 March 2007 as an application that the local authority's name should no longer be anonymised
It is ordered that the rubric on the cover sheet of the judgment be amended by inserting the words "and the local authority" immediately after the words "the advocates"
And it is declared that there is nothing in the judgment or in any order of the court or otherwise to prohibit the identification of Blackpool Council as being the local authority involved in these proceedings."
"I am writing this letter to ask if it would be possible for me to speak out publicly about my experience through the care system of the social services.
I was 10 when it happened and now I am 15 and I want to speak about the lack of intelligence and lack of respect and responsibility families like us have been treated with."
The relevant part of W's letter read:
"I want to speak out if I can I just want people to know what it is like at this stage of anger and being very upset my best friends know what happened to me and my family".
"I'm writing with regard an article we have done with a magazine trying to campaign about the family court system, though our story is a very difficult one to tell we believe that it needs to be told in detail, sadly it won't be printed due to the restraints of the family court law, in the article there are none of the professionals named only the fact that the council are named for which you gave us permission, after talking to the reporter and being told that the story would not run, I'm mailing you to ask your permission for our story to be told, for our children to be shown in the article and to name Blackpool Council in the article, as I've said there will be no professionals named and we have the full backing of all our children to do so … unless the families who are falsely accused can talk out then not only can the family have closure also the way family court is run can never be made a better court system."
i) There has never been any injunction in this case prohibiting reporting or discussion of the case. As I said in my previous judgment (Re B Children, X Council v B and others  EWHC 1622 (Fam) at para ):
"So far as I can recall, and I have examined the court file to confirm my recollection, I was not asked to grant and I did not grant any injunction. The only anonymity which was granted was that deriving from the rubric on the front sheet of my judgment."
ii) The care proceedings in relation to the B children have long since come to an end. Accordingly, the restrictions imposed by section 97(2) of the Children Act 1989 no longer operate: Clayton v Clayton  EWCA Civ 878,  Fam 83.
iii) The only relevant statutory restrictions which continue to apply are those imposed by section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960.
iv) Section 12 does not prevent publication of the names of the parties or the names of the children: Re B (A Child) (Disclosure)  EWHC 411 (Fam),  2 FLR 142. Nor does section 12 prohibit discussion, within certain bounds, of the nature of the dispute in the proceedings.
v) What section 12 does prevent, unless the judge otherwise directs, is the publication of accounts of what has gone on in front of the judge sitting in private, publication of documents (or extracts or quotations from documents) such as affidavits, witness statements, reports, position statements, skeleton arguments or other documents filed in the proceedings, and publication of transcripts or notes of the evidence or submissions, and transcripts or notes of the judgment: see Re Webster, Norfolk County Council v Webster and others  EWHC 2733 (Fam),  1 FLR 1146, at para .
"my recollection (which may be wrong) is that this wording was used not as a result of any specific request made by any of the parties but simply because it was the wording conventionally attached at that time to Family Division judgments authorised to be released for publication or report."
"I will proceed on the assumption, though I emphasise without deciding the point, that the rubric is binding on anyone who seeks to make use of a judgment to which it is attached."
"the workings of the family court system and, perhaps most importantly of all, the views about the system of the children caught up in it, are, as Balcombe LJ put it in Re W (Wardship: Discharge: Publicity)  2 FLR 466 at p 474, "matters of public interest which can and should be discussed publicly" … These are issues that require open and public debate in the media. And what more important voice can there be in such a debate than that of a teenager who has gone through all that Angela has experienced?"
"Upon reading (1) the judgment handed down on 16 August 2004,  EWHC 2015 (Fam), and (2) the order made herein by Mr Justice Munby on 6 July 2007
And upon reading letters from the children J and W both dated 27 July 2007 and various letters from their mother the most recent being dated 8 January 2008
And the judge treating those letters as an application that the names of Mrs B and of J and W should no longer be anonymised
It is ordered (without prejudice to the order dated 6 July 2007) that the rubric on the cover sheet of the judgment be further amended by inserting at the end the words "provided that nothing shall prevent Mrs B and J and W if they so wish (but in the case of W only if those with parental responsibility for him agree) waiving their anonymity in relation to the judgment and identifying themselves in public by name and surname as persons involved in these proceedings"."
i) This application, unlike its predecessor, does not concern the local authority, so I have dealt with it without consulting the local authority.
ii) The application has been made by Mrs B, J and W. There has been no application by or on behalf of either D or N. In accordance with the terms of my order, Mrs B, J and W may publicise their names, including their surname. To that extent, D and N may indirectly be identified, and I have taken that into account in coming to my decision. But nothing I have said authorises the publication in this connection of D and N's first names without their permission.
iii) Nothing I have said authorises the publication of the names of any of the professionals or other people involved in the proceedings. Mrs B's e-mail makes clear, as she says, that "there will be no professionals named". If I am to be asked to make an order permitting any of the other people involved in the proceedings to be named, there will have to be a proper application and those affected will have to be given an opportunity to express their views.
iv) I have considered only the question of whether Mrs B, J and W should be permitted to identify themselves in public as persons involved in these proceedings. Consistently with the approach I have adopted, I have not considered the wisdom of their doing so. That in the case of Mrs B and J is a matter for them; in the case of W a matter for his parents. It is not, for the reasons I have sought to explain, a matter for the court. It is not for me to express any views on the subject, let alone to give advice. I confine myself to two observations which, no doubt, all those involved will bear in mind:
a) Once they have waived their anonymity, if that is what they choose to do, Mrs B and J and W will not be able to control the media or the use the media make of all the information in the public domain, including all the matters referred to in the judgment of 16 August 2004,  EWHC 2015 (Fam).
b) That judgment contains references to a number of private and personal matters to do with Mrs B, J and W. If they waive their anonymity, those matters which, although in the public domain, are at present merely linked with an anonymous Mrs B or an anonymous J or an anonymous W, will be publicly linked with the identified [Mrs B, J and W]. Is this really what they want?